I read with interest Joe Person's story in today's Charlotte Observer where former longtime Panther safety Mike Minter said that while there were no bounties when he played for Carolina that veteran players did offer cash bonuses for big plays.
Minter said the veteran players, including himself, would "pony up" and award bonuses, particularly for big special-teams plays (special-teamers usually aren't starters and don't make as much as the veterans). Coaches weren't involved in this, which was against NFL rules but from all the stories coming in from around the league also sounds pretty commonplace.
What I'm most interested in now, though, is Part 2 of this sordid affair -- the punishments.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton issued a joint statement Tuesday (they had been silent for far too long) about the bounties, saying they took full responsibility for it happening under their watch and apologizing to owner Tom Benson. I didn't think the statement went far enough, though -- what about apologizing to the players the Saints were purposely trying to hurt?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to rule on punishments sometime this month, and I think he will come down very hard. I don't ultimately think St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (the administrator of the bounty program while with the Saints) will keep his job. Whether he resigns or gets fired or gets suspended for life, I think Williams has to go. His violations were the most blatant.
Loomis and Payton need to at least be fined and suspended for a significant amount of time as well. The players involved -- there were between 22 and 27 of them, according to the NFL -- must be fined for sure and likely the ringleaders suspended.
I think the Saints will also have their 2013 first-round draft choice taken away (they won't have one this season) and their top pick for 2012 taken away too (No.59 overall). Maybe more.
In other words, the punishments will and should be significantly worse than the New England Patriots' Spygate ($750,000 total in fines and a first-round draft pick taken away). And they should come soon -- I think Goodell has tons of information now and don't imagine he will need to wait much longer before lowering the boom and providing a cautionary tale for any other team thinking about trying out a bounty system or even a "cash bonus for big plays" system like the Panthers used to employ, according to Minter.
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